A singular anthem
New Zealander singer-songwriter Sarah Mary Chadwick strikes a merciful chord with her new record The Queen Who Stole the Sky. The album was entirely performed and recorded on Melbourne Town Hall’s 147-year-old grand organ, and brilliantly impresses with its consistency and pure strength.
The entire listen remains singular in organ-only production, yet has powerful pockets of deep intimacy set within Chadwick’s lyrics. In “Confetti,” her lyrics reach the richness of her bright and crisp voice. The song feels real, tangible as she sings, “I no longer talk to anyone/ who’s blind or deaf or dumb and that almost leaves no one.”
Both Chadwick’s voice and writing are so particularly special throughout the record’s play. She sets up a romantic narrative only to break it down in the next line. “Kesey Peasy” exudes this personal offering in pain as Chadwick sings about her father and “the universe in his mind… that I could never visit.” The next couple of tracks continue her remarkable ability to express deep feelings not always so easy to reveal. “Anniversary” talks about being alone; Chadwick sings, “I’m dragging myself off the road again.” As the tones get more intense, she concludes and perhaps the darkest point in the record states, “Might as well hang by my throat if I won’t.” In “I Just Came to Pray,” her voice is soaked in pain and emotion; her reality of happiness is unreachable. Rather than being overpowering, her delivery is poignant and oddly engaging.
On the production side, the isolated organs are a brilliant and beautiful element of the record. In “On the Make,” the organs complement the deep vocal pockets of the track. Everything feels fragile yet so powerfully built. And the organs somehow never feel like church music, rather they match Chadwick’s vocal intensity.
The last couple of songs on the record become subtly complicated. “The Queen Who Stole the Sky” has Chadwick letting her vocals ride over the melodic organs. The final song “Something so Sweet” carries on with organs of a more ominous tone, and straying away from the record’s overall theme, Chadwick endears with slightly happier lyrics “I promise there’s joy to be found.”
Chadwick truly delivers a remarkable piece of work with The Queen Who Stole the Sky. Her lyrics are heartbreaking and real, and you can’t help but fall into the story of her life, her pain and her being. The Queen Who Stole the Sky is a wild personal narrative that has never been done on such an intricate level.